154 B- POLEVOI
screen to be put round his bed, which, as everybody knew,
was an indication that the patient was likely to be taken
to "ward number fifty".
With the aid of camphor and oxygen, they got his
pulse going again, and the night surgeon and Vasily
Vasilyevich went away to get what sleep they could for
the remaining part of the night. Klavdia Mikhailovna,
with tear-stained and anxious face, remained at the
patient's bedside behind the screen. Meresyev could not
fall asleep. He lay thinking with horror: "Is this really
the end?" The Commissar was evidently still in great
pain. He was delirious and kept repeating a word which
sounded to Meresyev like "give". "Give, give me____"
Klavdia Mikhailovna, thinking that the patient wanted
a drink, came from behind the screen and with a trembl-
ing hand poured some water into a glass.
But the patient did not want to drink. The glass
tinkled against his set teeth and the water splashed on
to the pillow; but he still kept repeating, now in an
imperative and now in a pleading tone, the word that
sounded like "give". Suddenly Meresyev realised that
the word was not "give" but "live", and that with every
remaining fibre of his being this big man was fighting to
keep off death.
A little later, the Commissar calmed down and opened
"Thank God!" murmured Klavdia Mikhailovna with
relief and began to fold the screen.
"Don't! Leave it!" protested the Commissar. "Don't
take it away, nurse dear. It's cosier this way. And don't
cry; there is too much rawness on earth as it is____Why
are you crying, my Soviet angel? .. . What a pity we
meet angels, even such as you, only on the threshold...
of that place."
Alexei was experiencing something he had never felt
From the moment he began to believe that it was
possible, by training, to learn to fly a plane without feet,
and that he could become an airman again, he was
overcome by a passionate desire for life and activity.